Podcasting Celebrates Newfound Popularity

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A funny thing happened to podcasters over the past few months.

We’ve become popular.

For those who have been podcasting for business (or even personal) reasons over the past decade or so, the intrinsic appeal and marketing value of podcasting is nothing new. Podcasts offer high production value at a relatively low cost, compelling content, easy delivery and consumption, and a level of intimacy with the audience that just can’t be matched by other media formats.

However, for some reason the world has begun to take notice. Witness the following:

What’s really going on here? To my mind, it’s several factors coming together at once, a perfect storm of technology and content that is transferring energy to the podcasting world. Let’s look at them one at a time.

Smartphone explosion. Prior to the advent of the iPhone, consuming podcasts required some connection to a web-connected computer. You could play episodes on your PC or laptop, but if you wanted to go portable you needed to connect your MP3 player to your computer, download episodes and then go. A time-consuming process (which, of course, I repeated again and again).

Today, with the advent of the iPhone, Android devices and the like, podcasts can be selected, subscribed and downloaded on the go. There are numerous apps available to do this, so podcasts are now as convenient as radio. In fact, moreso, because you can listen to podcast episodes whenever you like. Radio shows air when they air.

Mobile networks. This ties into the smartphone boom. The improvement of mobile networks to current speeds has made it possible to download podcast episodes on these devices without the use of Wi-Fi. Even though MP3 compression, which reduces audio file size and originally made podcasting possible, shrinks files dramatically, just a few years back it was still a slow process to download a 20-50MB podcast file onto a phone. Now, it’s trivial.

Content acceptance. Years ago, consumers were skeptical of any content that did not come from major media companies, and content from brands was universally reviled. Times have changed. Nowadays, perhaps inversely proportional to the reputational decline of mainstream media, other forms of content have come into high demand. Brands that produce compelling content are rewarded with eyeballs or, in the case of podcasting, eardrums. Individuals who have something interesting to say these days can find sizable audiences.

The really special thing about podcasting, of course, is its ability to go narrow. Whereas large media outlets with high costs need to generate big audiences in order to be economically viable, individuals and brands with very specific areas of expertise can own their chosen spaces by creating great shows that really connect. Just look at iTunes or Stitcher Radio to check out the large number of interesting podcasts on a variety of topics as broad as you can possibly imagine.

The result of all this can be seen in the most recent podcasting data provided by Edison Research:

  • An estimated 39 million Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month. This 2014 number equates to 15% of the population, a record.
  • One in five weekly podcast users consumes six or more podcasts a week.
  • Podcast listeners spend 25.9% of their audio consumption time listening to podcasts, nearly tied with their AM/FM radio consumption (27.5%).

On a personal note, I’ve seen podcasting work effectively for many folks in many different circumstances – both as a producer and a consumer. Audio-based content adds something special that blogging, or even video, cannot. When you’re listening to a podcast, particularly using headphones, there’s a connection with the voice of the hosts and interview subjects that’s very powerful. It seems clear that advertisers and new listeners are recognizing this, too.

That’s OK with me. It’s nice to be popular.

Make Sure Your Tweets Aren’t Too Long

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Absurd. Ridiculous. Totally nuts.

How on Earth, you might ask, can a Tweet be too long? By definition, Tweets are limited to 140 characters. Isn’t that about the length of a single, longish sentence?

Well … yes. Tweets are limited to 140 characters. But my point is this: 140 is too long!

At issue is the sought-after RT, or retweet, through which an individual Tweet can begin to go viral in the Twitter community. A retweet can bring fame to an account with just a handful of followers. It can bestow prestige and credibility. It is Nirvana for Tweets.

However, if your Tweet is exactly 140 characters, or 139, or 138, anyone interested in retweeting is going to have to edit it down. Yikes! You don’t want to force prospective retweeters to edit. That’s like a car salesman asking a prospective buyer to “go home and think about it.” It’s a mistake. A big one.

The culprit is the format for retweeting. To retweet, you typically add to the front of the Tweet: RT @name. That’s 8 characters, and for only a 4-letter name. Add that to a 138 character Tweet, and you’ve over by 6!

Someone’s now got to go through your Tweet and take out 6 characters to send the retweet. That’s not so easy with Tweets, because they’re usually pretty tight.

The solution is simple. Keep your Tweets well below the 140 character limit. Maybe 128. Maybe 126. Something like that.

If you do, retweeting will be simple as pie. And that’s just the way you want it to be.

How Often Should You Tweet?

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Folks sometimes ask me how frequently businesses should tweet per day for optimal results.

The answer, according to one expert interviewed on {grow}[sorry, this link is now dead -Farrell], is either every 31-60 minutes or every 2-3 hours.

Again looking at the clicks per tweet, the optimal space between business tweets to attract the most clicks is either 31-60 minutes or 2-3 hours. Tightly packed tweets just don’t appear to attract as much attention as tweets with more space between them. I’m not certain what causes the dip in click activity for tweets between 61 and 120 minutes but I suspect it has to do with missing prime Twitter activity time on the East and West coasts (we may look into this in a later post).

I recommend checking out the entire post if you’re interested. There are some great bits of information.

For example, did you know the average lifespan of a business tweet is 4 days?